Suck the water out of brain tissue and what you’re left with is mainly fat. The brain is also very high in cholesterol. This substance actually plays a key role in the normal functioning of the brain.
Just these very facts alone might cause us to be wary about driving cholesterol to ever-lower levels as is the vogue. Is it possible that in doing so we jeopardise the brain’s functioning?
It is certainly true that some people who take statins report negative effects on their brain function. Problems with memory and concentration are not uncommon. It’s not assured, of course, that the problems these people experience are a direct consequence of lowered cholesterol levels in the body. However, the possibility still exists.
Some supportive evidence for this notion comes in the form of a study, in which researchers compared cholesterol levels in people at various stages of Alzheimer’s disease (the most common form of dementia) with those in individuals not suffering from the condition .
What they found, in essence, is that those with Alzheimer’s disease had significantly lower levels of total cholesterol as well as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Also, those with late stage Alzheimer’s disease had lower cholesterol levels compared with those with less advanced forms of the disease.
Finally, in those with Alzheimer’s disease, higher levels of cholesterol were correlated with better scores of mental functioning, as assessed by a test known as the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE). The authors of this study concluded that: “The results support the presumption that lipid profile might be connected with the aetiology [causation] and progress of AD [Alzheimer’s disease] and showed the association between low serum cholesterol and LDL-C levels and cognitive decline in patients with AD.”
Now, studies of this nature are what are termed ‘epidemiological’ studies, which look at associations between things. Just because two things are associated does not mean one is causing the other. In other words, we do not know from this study that low cholesterol is actually causing Alzheimer’s disease and impairing brain function. However, we need to at least stay open to this possibility, given cholesterol’s basic functions in the brain.
Here’s to a healthy heart
Dr John Briffa
for The Cholesterol Truth
Bear in mind all the material in this email alert is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
1. Presećki P, et al. Serum lipid levels in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Coll Antropol. 2011;35 Suppl 1:115-20.